The Partnership to Save Highway Communities is urging the leadership of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) to maintain the prohibition on commercial activity along the Interstate right of way in the upcoming extension of the current highway reauthorization law. Instead, the Partnership advocates that the EPW Committee preserve the current ban-- which has been in place for nearly 50 years—and which the group says will protect some 60,000 private businesses operating near the Interstate.
In a letter addressed to Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and James Inhofe (R-OK), the Partnership cautioned that allowing state governments to compete with private businesses for the services of Interstate motorists risks thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenues. Signors of the letter included the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA), Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA), National Association of Truckstop Operators (NATSO), as well as numerous restaurant chains and convenience stores.
“In these difficult economic times, such a policy change could further damage the economies of small cities and towns across the country that rely [sic] on Interstate traffic to sustain their local communities,” the Partnership wrote. “Allowing state-run rest areas to compete … on an unfair playing field will remove a valuable component to the economic development of the counties and towns.”
Several states, including Virginia, New Hampshire and Vermont, have recently closed rest areas, citing budgetary shortfalls. Some state officials have discussed the prospects of commercializing Interstate rest stops as a potential means of preserving these facilities. The Partnership to Save Highway Communities believes this is a short-sighted approach that ultimately will destroy thousands of businesses located off Interstate exit ramps.